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POL101Y1 Lecture Notes - Parliamentary Sovereignty, Secret Ballot, Government Simulation Game

Political Science
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Oct. 4th, 2010
(Lecture 4)
Democracy: Institutions
Marx felt that democratic institutions were all a visage; not a real
reality what we see
Democracy is a method for choosing leaders. Universal franchise, secret
ballot, majoritarianism
Should not be confused with eternal bliss, not endless pleasure, doesnt
make you rich or powerful
Franchise is universal - that is the vote is secret
May want certain distributional outcomes not a big gap btw the rich
and the poor
The basics of democratic outcomes: emerges out of different pre-
democratic contexts
Democracy has evolved out of all kinds of society; ANY kind of society
Whether they stay democracies depends on how wealthy they are; poor
countries can become a democracy, BUT often do not stay democracies
Different kinds of democratic institutions; not a single set of identical
democratic institutions
Which ones you have indicate how the game of democracy is played
But there are different kinds of democratic institutions: political
institutions, different ways of organizing democratic government.
These have profound implications for how government is carried out,
how social interests are channeled into politics, what political
competition looks like, what kind of parties you get, what the flow of
legislation is etc.
Institutions are the rules of the game
Important interpretations of the law
Importance of common law, judicial precedent & interpretation
For ex. Abortion laws over-ruled due to a stipulation in the
constitution/ Men who wrote the American constitution never intended
that certain things in the constitution would apply to abortion laws
hundreds of years later
Law evolves through the development of ideas
Evolving judicial precedent/system not in Europe
*Institutions are the product of evolution (in many ways the
combination of changing customs leads to changes in the constitution)
United States
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Written documents; lays out basic rules of the game, US government
functions according to these rules
Enumerated rights -> nowhere in any documents in England does it
enumerate rights/ however; paradoxically, they have rights
Rules of the game are clearly articulated (documents of human design,
written at a specific point in time)
Institutions are the product of human design rather than evolution
Design of Government
US president & cabinet (members of the cabinet do not necessarily have to
run, can be appointed by the president)
Great Britain: prime minister & cabinet responsible form of government
(all members once members of the parliament)
US congress - House of representatives & Senate
Great Britain - House of Commons & House of Lords
US - Supreme Court
Great Britain - none (House of Lords)
Principles of Government
Britain: Parliamentary, unified, cabinet, doctrine of responsible
government (cabinet must enjoy a majority support of parliament, as
opposed to support of head of state, vote of no confidence)
Cannot have a government in which the majority does not support
US: presidential, separation of powers, federal cabinet is appointed by
the president (head of state), only must be confirmed by senate but
does not require continuous majority confidence (i.e. the government
does not have to have the confidence of parliament)
Britain: head of state & head of government are different offices (prime
minister merely head of office NOT of state)
US: head of state is also head of government (cabinet)
Britain: parliamentary supremacy
US: equality of branches (judicial review)
Implications: Flow of Legislation
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